The Forest Service (FS) is proposing to burn up to 1.7-plus million acres of the Targhee National Forest in Wyoming via the approval of a Categorical Exclusion (CE), meaning without proper environmental analysis or public input. The FS’s plan would impact the Palisades Wilderness Study Area (WSA), plus Recommended Wilderness and Inventoried Roadless Areas.The Targhee is part of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem and critical habitat for native wildlife such as wolves and grizzly bears.
The Forest Service’s plan would trammel the Palisades WSA despite the agency’s obligation to manage the area to preserve its wilderness character, which includes not interfering with natural processes. Additionally, it is unclear to what degree helicopter use or mechanical treatment (read cutting of trees)—both of which are generally excluded in Wilderness—would occur in the WSA.
The Jedediah Smith and Winegar Hole Wildernesses are not included in this burn plan, but the FS could ignite fires up to the wilderness boundaries of these areas as well. The impacts of this action—which could include helicopters, other motorized transport, and/or the use of chainsaws to cut trees adjacent to Wilderness—are not considered in the Categorical Exclusion.
If these impacts to the Palisades WSA, and potentially to the Jedediah Smith and Winegar Hole Wildernesses, weren’t bad enough, the project area is far too large and the information far too limited for the Forest Service to make any kind of informed decision using a Categorical Exclusion as it did.
The FS needs to abandon its plan to burn and otherwise trammel the Palisades WSA.
Photo: Howie Wolke
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